Of all the things you wouldn’t expect to become a sudden target for theft, the Freon refrigerant which makes your air conditioner work has to be pretty high on the list. Freon refrigerant is responsible for absorbing heat inside your home and then disbursing it outside, creating cool and crisp air that keeps you comfortable all summer long. However, Freon has recently become the target of thieves, and that’s thrown some homeowners for a loop.
Why would someone choose to steal Freon? After all, Freon is a highly-engineered chemical substance. It’s potentially toxic to humans and pets if they’re exposed to too much of it, it’s potentially damaging to the ozone layer if it evaporates, and the EPA has dramatically reduced the production of the substance outright, in favor of more eco-friendly refrigerant options. The answer to why thieves may target Freon is a complex one, but there are two primary reasons.
First, Freon is valuable. While the number of air conditioners which depend on Freon is shrinking rapidly (the EPA banned the sale of new systems loaded with Freon back in 2010), the truth is there are still some units out there which depend on the stuff to provide them with the cooling they need. That means those people are essentially stuck looking for Freon in a rapidly-dwindling supply, and that means the price has gone up significantly. While a pound of another type of refrigerant may cost between $10 to $15 per pound, Freon is now as much as $35 per pound, and that doesn’t include labor or setup charges usually required in order to have it installed. That alone may make it worthwhile for some thieves to break in and try to recover as much of the R-22 Freon as they can.
Second, people have been using Freon to get high. Remember how we said that Freon is actually toxic to humans and pets, and too much exposure could have serious consequences? Well, turns out that people have been inhaling Freon fumes to try and get high, and that’s led to a sharp jump in theft. And this problem is more widespread than you might think—an estimated one out of every five teenagers in America has used an inhalant (a substance which emits vapors which cause a high or altered state of mind) to get high, and over 2.6 million children aged 12 to 17 use an inhalant each year.
That dangerous trend has homeowners everywhere feeling the pain as they’re being forced to pay immense amounts of money to not only refill their Freon supplies, but often to also repair damage that thieves do to refrigerant lines when they break in to steal the stuff.
In many cases, homeowners don’t realize that their Freon has been stolen until they go to turn on their air conditioner and realized that they aren’t getting the cooling they need. They call a professional to come out and inspect their system, only to hear them say that their refrigerant levels are extremely low. If your levels are low, but there’s no leak in your lines, then there’s a good chance your Freon has been stolen. You can also look for signs of Freon theft around your outdoor unit. For example, if service caps are missing from your Freon fill valves, then they’ve clearly been tampered with. If someone leaves a knife or other instrument meant to pry off the caps on your valves, or if you find a plastic bag near your unit, then odds are someone has, or at the very least has attempted to steal your Freon.
So what can you do to protect your Freon and keep thieves out? Many homeowners have turned to a locking cap over their Freon supply. A locking cap covers your Freon supply and secures it behind the added protection of a lock. Lock mounts over your refill valve, and is extremely difficult to remove without professional equipment, thus ensuring that the only people who have access to these lines are professional Dallas air conditioning and heating experts.
The benefits of installing a lock are easy to see: not only does this protect you, your family, and your children from possibly being exposed to dangerous Freon fumes, but it prevents thieves from gaining access to your refrigerant lines to get high. This protects you from liability, as a homeowner where someone has gotten hurt on your property. It also ensures you don’t have to foot the expensive bill for a Freon recharge as well as repairs to your fill valves after someone attempts to break in and steal your refrigerant.
Locking caps are generally a small and economical investment in your system, costing only a few dollars. However, they’re also one which could save you a lot of money and headache in the long run.
Let Aire Texas Residential Services protect your refrigerant and keep your system running smoothly! Give us a call at (972) 544-4811 today to request a locking cap installation appointment.